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Jogging versus walking: what's best for you?

Siski Green / 05 February 2016 ( 12 February 2020 )

What’s better for your health and fitness, jogging or brisk walking? We look at the impact walking and jogging has on your heart health and which is better for weight loss.

Friends taking a walk in the country
Walking is easier, you can talk while you're doing it with friends and you don't need special trainers to enjoy it either.

In the 1980s everyone from small children to 90-year-olds jogged. Now, a lot of would-be joggers are walkers instead.

Why? Because there are some big advantages to walking that jogging can’t provide. Less wear and tear on your joints, and less risk of injury, for example.

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It’s not all one-sided though - jogging will burn more calories if done for the same amount of time as walking, and so can be a more useful weight-loss activity.

So read on to discover the details of how these activities affect your body and make a choice that’s right for you.    

The health benefits of walking

So what is the difference between jogging and brisk walking?

You can walk briskly and still keep up with a jogger but the difference is in your feet – when jogging or running, one foot can leave the ground, with walking, one foot is touching the ground at all times. So as the heel of one foot begins to leave the ground, the toe of the other foot is touching it.

This is important because it’s this aspect of walking that makes it low-impact compared to jogging or running, even when it’s done at high speed.

Because your bodyweight is supported on whichever foot is touching the ground, there is no point where all your body weight is pushed down onto one leg with force (as is the case with jogging or running). Instead, your weight is more gently moved from one foot to the other, without a large impact.

One study, published in the Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine, found that running produces a force on your joints that’s around 2.5 times your bodyweight, while walking produces a force of 1.2 times your bodyweight.

That’s a big difference if you consider you might be walking or jogging for several hours total each week. The same study, perhaps unsurprisingly, found that joggers or runners were far more likely to suffer with injuries than walkers too. 

10 ways to take care of your joints

Jogging vs walking: your heart rate

Jogging or running raises your heart rate to around 120-130 beats per minute (based on the average person), while walking at a brisk rate of around 100 steps per minute increases it to about 100 beats per minute.

This would lead you to assume that jogging would be better but, while jogging gets your heart working harder, walking also gets your heart into that ideal range – the 50-70% of your maximum heart rate. So both jogging and walking will improve your overall health and fitness.  

However, how fast and how long you ‘jog’ should also be considered. Research has recently indicated that running might not be as healthy as slower jogging or walking.

This, say researchers, might be because physically we are not adapted for long periods of intense exercise such as an hour-long run. As a result, a long fast run can result in adrenalin increases and inflammation in your arteries can occur too.

This may explain why some studies have found that regular long and fast-paced running doesn't seem to hold the same benefits as slower jogging or walking.

For example, one study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, found that people who run most days at a pace faster than 7 miles per hour actually have the same risk of death as sedentary individuals. 

Find out more about inflammation

Jogging vs walking: heart health

There is other research, this time from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, USA, which indicates high-speed movement may not be as healthy as a slower pace.

Researchers collated data from more than 33,000 runners and 15,000 walkers and found that walkers enjoyed more health benefits. They found that heart disease was reduced by 9.3% in participants, but only by 4.5% in those who ran.

Similarly, risks for first-time high blood pressure and high cholesterol were reduced further by walking than by running.

Find out more about high blood pressure

Jogging vs walking: motivation

Walking is easier, you can talk while you're doing it with friends and you don't need special trainers to enjoy it either. Because of this, we tend to do it for longer and more regularly than jogging or running. So that in itself is something to consider.

Regardless of how good an exercise is at burning calories or improving health, it’s useless unless you are motivated to do it regularly. 

10 ways to do more exercise without even noticing

Jogging vs walking:  weight loss

Research shows that joggers will shift weight more quickly than walkers, but if you’re trying to lose weight the speed of weight loss shouldn’t be your only consideration.

For example, an overweight man will burn more calories during a jogging session than a slim one simply because his body needs to work a lot harder because it weighs more.

But if you’re overweight your joints are already under a lot of pressure, so it might be better to lose weight steadily and slowly by walking which won’t put your joints under the same pressure.  

Do you need to lose weight?

Nb: If you aren't used to exercise, see your GP before you start. They'll be able to tell you the right type of exercise for you, and give advice on starting slowly and building up gently.

Want to talk to a GP today? With Saga Health Insurance, you have unlimited access to a qualified GP 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Find out more about our GP phone service.


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The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.

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